Workforce

Accelerate Your Digital Journey: Combine Business Skills and Technical Skills

Tim Wright By Tim Wright Consultant, Workforce Transformation, Dell Technologies Education Services June 17, 2019

Your digital journey should follow a roadmap to digital transformation.That roadmap leads to your organization being flexible and competitive in the digital economy. In laying out the roadmap, have you insured that:

  • Your workers are developing greater technical skills?
  • Your workers are developing greater business skills?
  • Your learning framework extends beyond standard training and development?

You will be asked these same questions at the end of this article. The ideas and data that follow may change your answer.

Don’t Neglect Workforce Transformation

Previously, I explored why (and how) workers must change to be ready for their company to achieve successful IT transformation. Since that writing, more organizations have attested to the need for both business skills and technical skills, within their IT teams and throughout the company. Market data indicates that two of “the highest-stakes business training initiatives facing organizations in the next two years are: technology skills and soft skills/communication.” (State of High-Stakes Learning 2019). IT must be in sync with the rest of the business. That shared rhythm and harmony provide the necessary basis for successful digital transformation.

A dichotomy exists as companies spend money on technology transformation without also funding workforce transformation and development of human business skills. IDC predicts that in 2019 spending for digital transformation by worldwide business will reach $1.7 billion. However, Gartner’s 2018 Shifting Skills Survey of 7000 employees revealed that 70% state “they haven’t mastered the skills they need for their jobs today.” That 80% feel they lack skills for both current and future career roles lends credence to the notion that technology transformation may leave workforce transformation behind.

Successful digital transformation depends on both IT transformation and workforce transformation. Security and application transformations will be inherent in the overall IT transformation.

As the digital (r)evolution moves IT out of the back office, IT operates increasingly hand-in-hand with the several business functions: operations, sales & marketing, finance, human resources. Consequently, IT must be able to design solutions, offer services and communicate them to business stakeholders effectively. This ensures business and IT are marching in lockstep toward achieving their collective KPIs on a common, mutually understood path. This requires communication of an integrated nature, not on parallel paths.

Business skills or “soft skills” cover a broad range of training subjects. Business skills target the actual job identity and the variances required in the generic soft skills. The World Economic Forum cites The Future of Jobs as source of the following list of the top ten skills that employees will require in 2020.

For example, an IT Master Architect increasingly needs to communicate with any number of other business functions, asking for and listening to their specific needs. The presentation of solutions in response to those needs may involve any of the above skills, rather than merely “communication.”

Merge Business Skills and Technical Skills

Digital advances in businesses obviously demand changes in key roles of IT. We are increasingly familiar with job titles such as Enterprise Architect, Data Scientist and Data Analyst, Cybersecurity Specialist, for example. These roles require specific technical skills. The technical skills must be integrated with higher levels of interpersonal, business skills for the technological transformation to take hold throughout an organization. Agile learning provides opportunities for that integration.

Dell Technologies Master Enterprise Architect certification offers real time application of skills that enable one to collaborate with business leaders and IT experts, and to comprehend the integration of business mission and strategy. Applying combined business and technical knowledge and skills, the Master EA drives development, specification and communication of solutions that meet customer business and IT transformation needs.

As shown above, research reveals that, as a component of digital transformation, workforce transformation is lagging while technological transformation is advancing. The Skills for Digital Transformation Research Report 2017 by Initiative for Digital Transformation (IDT) reported how many companies (%) view which specialized skills as “high importance”:

The same IDT report also states that 84% of the respondents also ranked business change management, a business “soft skill”, as critical.

To the question:

“We have enough personnel with the skills necessary for the digital transformation of our company” only 15% of the respondents rather agree or agree strongly. With 64%, a majority of respondents rather disagree or strongly disagree with the statement. It can be concluded that the digital skill gap has not closed yet.

The IDT report indicates that the “digital skills gap” includes people skills such as business change management as well as technical skills such as cloud computing and digital security.

Build a Culture for Connected Learning

Offering more relevant business skills courses will make a difference. Creating a culture that exposes employees to and engages their application of those business skills will make a greater difference. Among the 5 Ways Leading Organizations Excel at IT, CIO magazine listed Culture that attracts top talent as #3:

Almost every CIO we talked to in the past year was looking for new talent and finding ways to reskill their existing workforce, and many noted the difficulty of hiring and retaining high-performing talent. Digital vanguards have the same challenges but realize organizational culture is key to attracting, retaining and engaging top technology talent. Fifty percent of digital vanguard organizations say they have a reputation for being an innovation leader, whereas only 20 percent of baseline organizations say the same. More than half (55 percent) say they can retain talent because of their creative and inspiring environment.

Gartner offers the concept of connected learning: identification connected to motivation connected to solutions.

  • Skills identification. Instead of prioritizing business leaders’ urgent requests, leading companies are identifying broader skills shifts in the market to determine the most pressing skill needs for employees across the organization.

[Think of technical skills as the “urgent requests” and business skills as the “broader skills shift in the market”. What combination is right for your organization?]

  • Employee motivation. Rather than just communicating skills requirements, employees need to understand how they can personally grow by developing the skills the organization needs.

[Opportunities to experience learning in direct collaboration with others, both on- and off-the-job are increasingly desired by workers.  How does your organization actively listen to that preference?]

  • Learning solutions. Providing self-service development options can overwhelm employees; leading organizations are brokering quality development experiences to accelerate new skill development.

[These solutions offer relevant learning content and desirable learning modalities. In what ways do you provide learning other than via an overwhelming menu of choices?]

Consider, then, the corresponding needs for technical skills and business skills by your workforce. Add in the factors of the speed of change and the cost of turnover. Finally, determine if your digital transformation strategy includes employee development as a key component.

Now, let’s see if your answers have changed. Are you ready to insure that:

  • Your workers are developing greater technical skills?
  • Your workers are developing greater business skills?
  • Your learning framework extends beyond standard training and development?

Summary

All efforts to achieve competitive digital transformation by businesses small, medium and large are more likely to succeed when workers are offered opportunities to develop their technical skills and their business skills. Technological transformation must be complemented by workforce transformation for the end result to be full-scale digital transformation.

To explore all aspects of this effective combination of technological and workforce transformation, contact Dell Technologies Education Services.

My Previous Blogs on Workforce Transformation

Workforce Transformation through Agile Learning

Gen Z Workforce: Education and Technology Considerations

Why the Workforce Needs to Change for Digital Transformation

Tim Wright

About Tim Wright


Consultant, Workforce Transformation, Dell Technologies Education Services

Tim Wright joined Dell EMC, now Dell Technologies, in 2013 as Consultant-Professional Development in the then GSD L&D organization. His focus initially was on providing professional/personal skills improvement resources for members of the training delivery organization. That soon expanded to Tim’s development of a series of virtual instructor-led professional development courses that ran successfully for the SDS organization.

After teaching middle school for 13 years—to individuals now in their late 40s and early 50s!—Tim navigated to corporate training and development. He’s been at it as the industry’s changed its name from “corporate training” to “training and development” to “corporate learning” to “L&D” to “digital learning”….. His focus has always been in the area of interpersonal skills: professional development, soft skills, generic training. Whether communication skills or team building or leadership development or problem-solving and decision-making, Tim’s passion is helping people discover ways to improve their performance while increasing enjoyment of what they do.

As much as possible, Tim enjoys a 40-40-20 approach to his work. Ideally, he spends 40% of his time interacting with stakeholders to engage in the observation-interview-empathize segments of Design Thinking. The next 40% continues DT practices of prototyping, sharing with stakeholders, testing. The last 20% is the delivery or iteration where failure is discovered as the fastest step to improvement. He even envisions a project that allows him to fit that formula into a 5 day week: M-T is design, W-T is development, F is delivery.

Tim’s pretty much given up running for long-distance walking/hiking. His golf game is improving. He journals like crazy and is always working on another poem.

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